Easing Peninsula tension

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While tension still grips the Korean Peninsula, the intensive diplomacy among the relevant countries initiated by China is offering a ray of hope for a peaceful solution to the current standoff.

China has been active in this round of diplomatic shuttling ever since the escalation of tension following the exchange of artillery fire between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Nov 23.

Top Chinese leaders and high-ranking officials have expressed deep concerns over the situation and called for peaceful dialogue and consultations to defuse the tension on several occasions. China has proposed emergency consultations within the framework of the Six-Party Talks, a China-initiated mechanism launched in 2003 for denuclearization of the Peninsula that comprises China, the DPRK, the US, the ROK, Russia and Japan.

Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo traveled to Pyongyang last week and met DPRK's top leader Kim Jong-il. The two sides reached consensus on bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean Peninsula after candid and in-depth talks. Dai also went to Seoul shortly after the latest outbreak of tension to exchange views with ROK officials.

The United States Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg is leading a top diplomatic delegation to Asia this week. The delegation, consisting of US National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Jeffrey Bader, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Kurt Campbell, and Special Envoy Sung Kim, is expected to conduct consultations with Chinese officials on regional security issues, including recent developments on the Korean Peninsula.

It is hoped these series of official visits will yield fruitful results and lead to the early resumption of Six-Party Talks.

After last month's artillery incident, the situation on the Peninsula has been worsening and drawing widespread concern from the international community. However, as China's stance gains increasing support in the international arena, reasonable remarks and positive signals conducive to a peaceful easing of the current tension have emerged from time to time.

Under such circumstances it is essential that the parties concerned should exercise extreme calm and restraint so that momentum toward an early resumption of the Six-Party Talks can be build up.

The joint military exercises between the US and ROK and the US and Japan, together with the ongoing live fire exercises conducted by the ROK military, have only strained an already tense situation.

The parties concerned should judge the situation in a rational way and do more to contribute to peace and stability on the Peninsula, which serves the common interests of all countries in the region.

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